New York Times: Enjoyable Reading, but is it Fair Reporting?

There is a controversy in my family: NYTimes or Wall Street Journal?

I enjoy reading the NYTimes. I am a liberal Democrat and believe the NYTimes supports government action.

My grandparents enjoy reading the Wall Street Journal. They are conservative Tea Party-ers and believe the Wall Street Journal supports business.

While this is only an example with a population of n=2, I think this relationship with news sources has a trend throughout America. If this trend is true, what may explain this?

Here is an example:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/17/nyregion/bloombergs-final-recycling-frontier-food-waste.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

This article discusses Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to reduce waste through a mandatory city-wide composting system in NYC. The article seems to lean the left. I think the article promotes composting by providing much more evidence for why composting is a good idea for the city and even discussing NYC mayor candidates who support the system. Do you believe the NYTimes article is politically bias?

In class, Louise, mentioned that sometimes there is not another side to the story. Is there another side to waste reduction? If there is another side, does the NYTimes have a responsibility to fairly represent counter arguments?

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About emjaffe

Student at the University of Michigan. Passionate about environmental and urban public policy and planning.

5 Responses to “New York Times: Enjoyable Reading, but is it Fair Reporting?”

  1. I think it’s sad that environmentalism is considered political bias, but I do acknowledge that I’m a biased environmentalist to start out with. Based on those beliefs, I do agree in this case with Louise’s idea from class. There are so many studies that support the notion that we produce trash at entirely unmanageable scale in the long term. Helping to at least lessen what we put into these un-biodegradable garbage piles is a step in the right direction for the longevity of our planet. So, does NYT have a responsibility to counter arguments? I think they did by inserting quotes from residents who dislike the proposals or at least had issues with composting at some point.

  2. Do you believe the NYTimes article is politically bias?

    I am not well-read enough to call the NY Times politically biased, I especially don’t like reading articles that seem too biased either, so I will usually stray away from them. However what the NY times usually reports on seems very educated and hard to refute, which strikes me as an indication that whether they have a political bent or not the journalists give fair and equal treatment to most issues. I have never read an article and felt that one side was being given way too much consideration over another. For this article specifically, I think there is a practical environmentalist bent but I hesitate to call that liberal. Obviously Navarro supports local government interaction in waste issues by describing Bloomberg fairly and only mentioning his critics once, mentioning composting programs in other big cities, providing impressive target numbers and the moderate initiation techniques planned as the city transitions from voluntary to mandatory composting. However, politics as a whole are not the focus of the article, I feel the good of the city is.

    Is there another side to waste reduction?
    I do not think that there is any question that waste reduction needs to happen, there are however different ways of doing it. I am sure that there are apartment complexes and restaurants who oppose some regulation of this new program for whatever reason but it is being done for the good of the entire city. It lowers landfill costs for the higher ups, maintains cleanliness and might be used for creating energy. How could such a cycle of benefits and promising results be a controversial initiative?

  3. katiebethhalloran Reply October 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I would say that this article did lean to the left, because it only mentioned the stance of two Democrats on the issue, and it specifically named these officials as Democrats rather than just by their position. The article made an excellent argument for the program by bringing up both environmental arguments and fiscal reasons as to why this would benefit the city. However, I didn’t particularly feel that the ending quote was a fair representation of the opposing side. It made it sound as though laziness is the only argument against this program. I’m sure there are people in the city who feel this infringes on their personal freedom in some way, since it is a mandatory program which would affect people’s every day life. I don’t agree with these people, but if you’re going to include the opposing side, you should see if they have a better reason for their arguments than “I have enough work.” It is better to take Louise’s advice and not include any opposition at all than an opinion which sounds selfish and petty.

  4. Katie Beth, it doesn’t only mention the stance on two Democrats for the issue. Bloomberg, the mention is an independent and many of the other sources aren’t “affiliated” or specifically tied to one side.

    It does mention two democrats, but within the context of their support for the program which is important for readers to know if there is an upcoming election. It wouldn’t be bias here because it applies directly to the context. I don’t necessarily think this makes the piece biased because it’s a way of informing readers (voters!) of issues candidates support. But I see the problem as a unfairness just because they don’t mention other candidates (on the other side) views on the issue. However, those aren’t the only perspectives this article gives.

    Other than that I think this article has a well rounded group of sources, the very first mention of a perspective were the sanitation officials who “considered the city too dense and vertically structured for such a policy to succeed.” So it doesn’t seem too biased to me because they include that right at the beginning, and these are the people mostly responsible for the organization of the end product so even if they aren’t a government official, as a reader their opinion strikes me as significant because they’re the ones who know the process.
    It also gives perspectives from people who the bill affects, they give one side to someone who is in support, one who noticed a problem and fixed it and one who was in opposition. I don’t agree that this remark is just about “laziness”. That is legitimately the other side to the story. In this way they do represent the other side – the ones who feel they shouldn’t have to do it. I think the only flaw with the way they did it was throwing it at the end and not working that in more through the middle, the article sort of just fluffs out on these remarks. Definitely not a strong kicker.

  5. While I agree with Marlene in that I think this article is well balanced, I understand what Katie Beth is saying, too. The mere fact that two democrats are mentioned while republicans are not will make some readers stamp this article as “leaning toward the left” immediately. It’s so sad that readers are polarized in this way, but I think it’s definitely something journalists have to be wary of. I do think that it would be more journalistically sound to never mention political parties at all in articles such as this one due to the ridiculously preconceived notions that they come with.

    At the same time, I agree that it’s necessary for the people in the political arena to know which candidates are in support of this program and which are not. I do not, however, think that’s this journalist’s job. If journalism is supposed to be “unbiased,” it’s not the journalist’s job to let the reader know what a political candidate stands for in an article unrelated to an election, I think. That in itself seems to be a form of bias. No need to associate composting, something that will hopefully soon become a universal norm, with politics. It misdirects people’s attention away from composting and toward political games. If we can un-stamp environmentally conscious articles like this one as being “on the left,” we will reach a wider audience and start helping people understand that environmental consciousness is a universal necessity, not a leftist campaign item.

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